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Jeter passes Mays on career hits list

09/14/2012 11:43 PM ET
By Jon Lane

Jeter moved past Willie Mays and into sole possession of 10th place on the all-time hits list.(AP)

NEW YORK -- Derek Jeter may have one-upped the legendary Willie Mays, but achieving yet another personal milestone in his storied career was the furthest thing from his mind.

The opposing Tampa Bay Rays had just tagged New York Yankees starter CC Sabathia for three runs in the fifth inning to take a 3-1 lead in a critical mid-September game at Yankee Stadium. When Jeter’s single off David Price deflected off Eliot Johnson’s glove and rolled into shallow right-center field, first and foremost was keeping the momentum going that was started by Curtis Granderson’s leadoff home run.

“We need to score some runs,” said Jeter when asked about the glow of moving past the Say Hey Kid into 10th place on baseball's all-time hits list with career hit No. 3,284. “It’s nice. It’s a good feeling, but we’re trying to win games. That’s what I’m thinking about.”

Once the ovation faded, Jeter and the Yankees were tasked with winning a ballgame to maintain at least a tie of first place in the AL East, but failed when the captain struck out to put an end to a 6-4 loss. Moving up baseball’s hit list and past another Hall of Famer in Mays, one of the most beloved figures in the game’s history, was sweet. Realizing that the Yankees could go to bed in second place for the first time since June 12 was, in a word, sour.

“It’s kind of tough to think about it now, but it’s pretty special,” Jeter said. “I said that [Thursday] when I tied Willie. It’s something when the season’s over with I’ll have an opportunity to appreciate a little bit more. But right now, in the middle of September, you’re trying to win some games.”

Jeter has been hampered by an injured left ankle, which was aggravated further trying to beat out a double play Wednesday night in Boston. But he's competed through the pain. In the Yankees' win over the Red Sox on Thursday, Jeter's seventh-inning single pulled him even with Mays and manager Joe Girardi indicated that it could be “fairly soon” that Jeter returns to his customary shortstop position after serving as the DH the last two games.

“I always want to play,” Jeter said, “but I’m going to do what they tell me to do.”

Jeter, who added a single in the eighth, is currently 971 hits behind Pete Rose’s all-time mark of 4,256, and needs 28 to tie Eddie Collins and 34 to pull even with Paul Molitor for ninth and eighth place, respectively. One of the elements of Jeter's MVP-caliber 2012 season is how he began the campaign in 19th place on baseball's hits list. Along the way, Jeter has passed Hall of Famers Dave Winfield, Tony Gwynn, Robin Yount, Paul Waner, George Brett, Cal Ripken Jr., Nap Lajoie, Eddie Murray and now Mays.

Ironically, Jeter homered off Price last July to become the first Yankee to join the 3,000-hit club. Since July 9, 2011, Jeter is batting .328 (287-for-874) with 135 runs scored, 42 doubles, 19 home runs and 92 RBIs in 208 games. He’s now five hits away from his eighth 200-hit season, which will tie Lou Gehrig's franchise record.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC

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